‘Economic’ Section of 5,000-Year-Old Settlement with а Dozen Kilns Found in Central Bulgarian Valley
A nearly 5,000-year-old prehistoric settlement, or, rather, its “economic” and production section, with close to a dozen kilns has been discovered by archaeologists in the Karlovo Valley in Central Bulgaria.
Based on the archaeological structures and artifacts discovered so far, the prehistoric settlement in question is more precisely dated to 2,700 – 2,500 BC, i.e. the first half of the 3rd millennium BC.
That is roughly the on the boundary between the end of the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) and the Early Bronze Age, whose start in Bulgaria is usually placed at around 2,800 BC.
The relatively small Karlovo Valley in Central Bulgaria, between the Balkan (Stara Planina) Mountain to the north and the Sredna Gora Mountain in the south, where the previously unknown Early Bronze Age settlement has been discovered is also the place of discovery of one of the world’s oldest and largest prehistoric gold treasures, the Dabene Gold Treasure.
The Dabene Gold Treasure found near Dabene, Karlovo Municipality, Plovdiv District, in Central Bulgaria consists of more than 21,000 gold artifacts of various types, and is dated to the period between 2,450 BC and 2,100 BC.
The period of the 3rd millennium in Bulgaria is oftentimes connected with the so called Proto-Thracians, the first people who conquered and/or displaced the original population of Europe’s first prehistoric civilization developed in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic in Bulgaria and some other parts of Southeast Europe, and who later evolved into the civilization of Ancient Thrace.
The newly discovered Early Bronze Age settlement from the Karlovo Valley is located near today’s town of Bogdan, Karlovo Municipality, Plovdiv District, which is about 5 kilometers away from the town of Dabene, known for the Dabene Gold Treasure.
The prehistoric site had been unknown until it was stumbled upon during a field study by archaeologists back in 2018. Thus, in 2020, it has been excavated for the third consecutive season in a row.
Quite intriguingly, on a relatively large plot that has already been fully researched, the archaeologists have discovered close to a dozen prehistoric kilns or hearths, and no traces of residential buildings whatsoever.
That has led them to hypothesize that they have unearthed the “economic” or production unit of a prehistoric settlement, with the residential part still to be uncovered somewhere nearby.
“So far we have excavated a plot with an area of 160 square meters where we have found about 10 kilns or hearths with [small] platforms around them. For some of them, we are certain that they were kilns [while others were hearths],” reveals archaeologist Martin Hristov from the National Museum of History in Sofia.
Hristov has been the lead researcher of the multi-year excavations for the discovery of the Dabene Gold Treasure mentioned above, the vast Early Bronze Age gold treasure found in the Karlovo Valley right nearby.
“For the time being, our interpretation is that his is some kind of an economic section of the settlement because at the present stage we haven’t found any remains from walls or even their foundations,” the lead archaeologist says, as cited by BTA.
“It is true that they were made of clay and hence are harder to find but we haven’t even seen marks from them, at least at the depth that we have reached,” he adds.
In his words, at the present stage the researchers are unable to say that they have found parts from dwellings.
“That has led us to believe that this was the economic or production section of the very settlement. “Economic” meaning the spot of the kilns in which the residents of the prehistoric settlement would bake pottery, bake food, and other things. That is what we have in front of us on the ground so far,” Hristov explains.
The archaeological layer containing the nearly 5,000-year-old remains exposed so far is about 1 – 1.5 meters thick indicating that the place was inhabited by a sedentary population for quite a long time.
“The pottery has been our initial and leading orientation tip – its shape, working, and decoration is showing us the time and place where we are at,” the archaeologist says.
In the Karlovo Valley, the prehistoric settlement, seemingly from the earliest period of the Bronze Age, seems to have been located on a small hill at the time, occupying its top section – although the spot is yet to be subject to geological and geomorphological research.
The discovery of the “economic” or production section of the nearly 5,000-year-old settlement from the Karlovo Valley with its kilns and hearths has provided the archaeologists with additional valuable information about the historical period in question.
Before the advent of the Proto-Thracians ca. the 3rd millenium BC, Southeast Europe was the site of Europe’s first civilization, the prehistoric civilization which emerged in the Neolithic on the territory of today’s Bulgaria and parts of the neighboring countries such as Romania and Serbia, in the Balkans and the Lower Danube Valley and near the Black Sea.
This prehistoric civilization from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic, which had the world’s oldest gold, Europe’s oldest town, and seemingly some of the earliest forms of pre-alphabetic writing, is referred to some scholars as “Old Europe”. It predates the famous civilizations of Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia by thousands of years.
The high Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) civilization which inhabited today’s Bulgaria at the time is also known, among other things, for world’s oldest gold treasure, the Varna Gold Treasure, which was discovered 40 km to the east of the Salt Pit town, in the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis near Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com, is the author of the book Ugly Bargain: How the European Union and Bulgaria’s Post-Communist Oligarchy Fit Together, among other books.
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